Biweekly Binge: Bacurau- An intoxicating force of resistance
What something like Bacurau reminds you of is its close resemblance to Indian subcultures, both as a society and structural heterogeneity with its own hierarchy
Saying the word Bacurau affords a form of sonorous gratification. It's a name, a place, a living entity that resides peacefully in the hearts of its people. The first time we see it is in a signboard that says - "Bacurau. If you come, come in peace." Later we hear it when Plinio (Wilson Rabelo), the son of Bacurau's matriarch Carmelita who has just passed away, says it in his speech. "Carmelita and Bacurau live in all of them", he says, referring to the people from Bacurau scattered around the globe.
People of Bacurau say the name with pride. The name resonates with a sense of self-worth within itself and in people belonging to the town. They take it in with all its flaws, glory and history. Plinio's speech is about this - about how Bacurau has created scientists, teachers, doctors, brick-layers, architects, gigolos, and prostitutes. But not a single thief. It's clear when he says "family", he is talking about Bacurau, not just his own. That's why the whole of Bacurau gathers for Carmelita's - 94 years of Bacurau in her - funeral. Say it. Watch Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles's Bacurau and that booming, reverberating heart of Bacurau might just seep into your pulse. The film gets into you with such persuasive mystique that you simply cannot say Bacurau again without a dramatic lilt.
The colours are dominantly Western, only more emphatic with the widescreen, as are the infiltrators. Neo-colonialism hangs over Bacurau and areas around like a pestilence and it is never clearer than during a hostile stretch at a safe house, accommodating a bunch of white supremacists headed by Udo Kier's Michael, a German, of course. They employ what they call "local contractors" for their smooth operation and two Brazilians to do the odd jobs like jamming phone network and removing Bacurau off the map, literally. Two unwitting kills on the Brazilians' part doesn't go well with the vulturine set and this leads to a dinner table conversation about ethnicity and socioeconomic inequality between regions of Brazil. The man says they are from a more prosperous part of Brazil, the north, with German and Italian colonies, and that he is just like them. A whole lot of things happen in this scene and true notions come to the fore. From the group's wilful ignorance (Michael requests them not to speak “Brazilian” around the table), their bloodthirstiness, and hatred for the locals. Like Bacurau as a whole, this short sequence too goes from yellows and greens before morphing into the whiplash of reds and browns. When one of them says "So, this is Bacurau", you hear contempt.
Though drawn as one for plot purposes, the Bacurau community isn't a cloistered monolith, the opening scene with the coffins clearly establishing a confluence of co-existing neighbourhoods that celebrate their indigenous heritage and cultural significance. Bacurau is a self-contained universe even if they struggle for food and water - cutoff by corrupt politicians and the group - they revel in their diversity and natural-born tolerance. It may be materially starved but socially, ethically and morally, a dreamy utopia, love and gender spanning the spectrum with the queer Lunga (Silvero Pereira) at the top of the unattainable list. A setting like this usually ebbs and flows through its mythology but Dornelles and Filho refrain from giving it that mythical aura. It's very much a real-world painted out of real experiences, even a museum standing as a testimony of that fact. The approach also comes in handy when the duo fluctuates between genres, at one point breaking into this intoxicating stoner sequence with electronic synth background. Psychotropic drugs are very much one with Bacurau's culture.
What something like Bacurau reminds you of is its close resemblance to Indian subcultures, both as a society and structural heterogeneity with its own hierarchy. An Indian version of Bacurau becomes a no-brainer and not just one version, the Indian version could shapeshift depending on the region involved, what with every region defined by many dominant elements, beginning with caste. The people of Bacurau too have a celebratory funeral procession for their dead, more song and dance, spelling out tradition and legacy. It's something straight out of a Tamil film, imagine Makka Kalanguthappa during a scene of death in the interiors of Brazil. This specificity in lifestyle that at once is unique to the country and yet speaks a universal language is why Bacurau is complex piece of cinema and the best kind, the one that can be transposed into any locale, its bare essentials codified into the regional nuances.
Bacurau is also a place that opens the doors to its history and welcomes you into it. The museum functions as not only a keepsake but also as a haven in more ways than one. The common enemy is implicitly stated by the markers, a gun-loving former babysitter, human resources guy in the supermarket, a bad cop who mistakes flashlight for a gun, a correctional officer in state prison. Neoliberalism in all its violent contortions. Sonia Braga's Domingas even offers vegan options and American music to Michael. Bacurau might have that explosive ending but there is a hint that it hasn't seen the last of the attempts to topple the union and erase it off the map. Bacurau will be here. The museum will update its artifacts, which is why they clean the blood off the floor but not off the walls. That will stay. Bacurau remembers.
Bacurau is streaming on Mubi.